February 20, 2024

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94 Calls to Action Upholding Accountability at the Treaty Space Gallery

94 Calls to Action Upholding Accountability at the Treaty Space Gallery

Based on a collaborative audio-visual exhibition of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Actions, Treaty Space Gallery and CIMADE Lab’s “94 Calls to Action,” which runs from January 15 to February 2, 2024 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, invites viewers to record a Call to Action in order to add their voice to the choir.

While the TRC’s Final Report was released seven years ago, many of the recommendations still haven’t been implemented. The exhibition “94 Calls to Action,” at the Treaty Space Gallery is an important reminder to all of us as treaty people to highlight the roles governments, communities and faith groups hold in making reparations to Indigenous peoples.

The Treaty Space Gallery formed in 2017, and is part of Nova Scotia’s College of Art and Design’s ongoing commitment towards Indigenous knowledge mobilization and support of Indigenous contemporary art. Exhibitions respond to the notions of treaty, cultural revitalization and UN’s declaration of the Decade of Indigenous Languages.

The mandate for the Treaty Space Gallery is partially inspired and informed by the Calls to Action, as it’s a space to learn about treaty histories and uphold accountability, and is open to exhibiting work by professional artists and NSCAD students. “This space explores concepts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous co-existence’ stipulated in the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (June 2015) as a key framework towards decolonizing together.”

The exhibition “94 Calls to Action” is set up as a minimalist living room with a couch, throw cushions and a coffee table with free copies of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, which was published by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba in 2015 at the TRC closing event. A QR code is provided where you can record and add your voice to become part of the exhibition. There is also a television screen with the names each of the participants whose recorded readings of the Calls to Action are heard through a parabolic speaker throughout the exhibition space. While the exhibition itself is powerful act, this community collaborative project “94 Calls to Action,” invites viewers who visit the exhibition in-person or virtually (via the Anna Leonwens Gallery website) to play an important role in reminding the public, institutions and governments of our treaty responsibilities.  By adding your own voice, you make a commitment to continue to help move these “94 Calls to Action” forward.

As I took a seat in the gallery living room at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’s port campus, I flipped open the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action to read aloud number 65. On a cold January morning in an empty institution, I read aloud into my phone: “We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educations, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.” After I finished recording the voice memo on my phone, I emailed it to treatyspacegallery@nscad.ca as per the didactic instructions in order to add my voice.

Despite being at the exhibition alone, I felt connection through collaboration and community by listening, reflection, re-reading and recording a recorded Call to Action. It reminded me of living in Montreal when I was a co-facilitator along with Dr. Sarah Henzi of the reading series Atwater Reads the TRC, a guided community reading of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada Volume One: Summary Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (Lormier Press, 2015) from September 2017 to January 2018 in order to help build meaningful and open relations between Indigenous in non-Indigenous peoples. At the opening of the event at Atwater Library we launched with the National Film Board of Canada’s film screening of My Name is Kahentiiosta (1995) by Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, who was in attendance on her 80th birthday, and over the following weeks we read through TRC Report as part of a community-based learning process and engaged in difficult and important conversations. Atwater Reads the TRC featured an extended reading list from the Indigenous Literatures library at the Atwater Library, poetry, essays, films and discussions questions to guide the reading. I’d like to see something similar take place at the Halifax Public Central Library and in libraries across Turtle Island.

While the exhibition “94 Calls to Action,” mounted in the early weeks of 2024 acts as a reminder “to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation,” I hope we see more gallery and institutional space dedicated to exploring ways community can connect and collaborate as we continue to walk this path of reconciliation together.

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About The Author

Shannon Webb-Campbell

Shannon Webb-Campbell is of Mi’kmaq and settler heritage. She is a member of Flat Bay First Nation. Her books include: the forthcoming Re: Wild Her (Book*hug 2025), Lunar Tides (2022), I Am a Body of Land (2019), and Still No Word (2015), which was the recipient of Egale Canada’s Out in Print Award. Shannon is a PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick, and the editor of Muskrat Magazine and Visual Arts News.

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